‘Tis the season for heinous hangovers.
If you’re on the wagon, a full-time teetotaller or simply sober curious however, finding a grown-up drink in a bar can be tricky.
Not so long ago, most of us were permanently surveilling the calendar for an occasion to drink. Lately however, more of us are plotting an occasion not to.
Drink driving laws and the cost of taxis are part of it. Then there’s the growing health trend for treating your body like a temple, or at least a little grotto of sorts, instead of using it as the venue for a December-long rager that’s guaranteed to leave you with The Fear for the first half of the New Year.
And Cork pubs have started to take notice.
One of the top gripes among non-drinkers is that the limited selection of non-alcoholic beers and wines tends to be kept on a shelf rather than in the fridge. Savvy bar managers have already rectified this, while laying on some thoughtful options for customers who are not imbibing.
Over at wholesalers Value Centre Cash & Carry, they’ve just launched a ‘Zero Bar’, offering alcohol-free wine, prosecco, beer, cider and gin.
“Alcohol free range sales have increased 224% since last year, driven by the health and wellness trend, with the worldwide market for non-alcoholic beer projected to double to about more than €20bn by 2024,” said a spokesperson.
With the numbers clearly inferring a demand for alcohol-free options that still remind consumers of alcohol, we went in search of the Cork bars with the best sober selection.
I mean, if you must witness your mates get progressively shoutier as the night rolls on, you should at least have something decent to sip while you pretend-laugh at their jokes, right?
What to drink when you’re not drinking
Naturally, Irish Bar Manager of the Year Andy Ferreira and his award-winning team at Cask on MacCurtain Street are already ahead of the game:
“Rather than just having the same non-alcoholic cocktail running for the three months, we are doing a weekly rotation of our alcoholic cocktails, but without the booze.” Andy told Yay Cork.
“We’ve stocked up on several ‘de-alcoholised’ wines and proseccos and each week the staff take it in turns to make a cocktail from our list into a banging non-alcoholic version.”
Across the bridge on the South Mall, the thirst for booze-free beer and cider is insatiable:
“We sell buckets of non-alcoholic drinks in Electric.” says publican Ernest Cantillon.
“I’ve been blown away by the success of Heineken Zero, it’s flying on draught as well as in bottles. Stonewell do a really good non-alcoholic cider too, I think that will fly this summer. We try to be creative with our cocktails, I think we are past the days of mixing orange and cranberry juice.”
‘It’s nice to have options besides Coke and 7 Up’
Up in St Luke’s, the owner of St Luke’s Inn, Jerry Carroll has been joined in the business by his three daughters, Olivia, Ellen and Gemma, who have transformed the pub into a space for locals to meet for coffee, chats, games nights and local business events, as well as Friday night pints.
The shift in the type of events people pop in for has led to a steady demand for alcohol alternatives beyond a bottle of fizzy pop.
“People want more options when it comes to non alcoholic drinks.” Gemma Power told Yay Cork. “We’re all a bit more health and lifestyle conscious and whatever the reason, it’s nice to have options besides Coke and 7 Up.”
Mark Lonergan of The Shelbourne Bar on MacCurtain Street agrees: “The attitude that more pints equals more fun has changed,” he says.
“We find many customers opting to having a bottle of non-alcoholic beer. The selection of non-alcoholic too has played its part. The fact a bar in Dublin (The Virgin Mary) can open and not serve alcohol shows that the customer doesn’t have to consume alcohol but can still get the great pub experience.”
Here are nine spots with a decent selection of non-alcoholic drinks
1. O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill
In non-alcoholic beers they do Baltika, a Russian lager, Heineken Zero and Erdinger. There’s Stonewell non-alcoholic cider, made in Nohoval and three non-alcoholic wines, a red and white wine, both Spanish, a syrah and a muscat, with a Hungarian zero-alcohol sparkling wine for special occasions. There’s also three different varieties of Seedlip non-alcoholic gin to choose from, as well as some low alcohol wines and local juices.
2. The Shelbourne, MacCurtain Street
At The Shelbourne, beer fans can choose from Heineken 0.0, Pure Brew Open Gate Brewery Non Alcoholic Lager, Erdinger Weissbier Non Alcoholic Beer, Baltika Non Alcoholic and the new Carlsberg Zero. There are two varieties of non-alcoholic gins, a non-alcoholic white wine and a zero-alcohol prosecco with a selection of signature virgin cocktails made by cocktail specialist Rory MaGee. FYI: On Friday December 6th, 2019 they’ll be offering free bottles of Carlsberg Zero for the night.
3. The Abbot’s Ale House
Well known as one of the best spots to enjoy a huge selection of craft beers, The Abbot’s Ale House also keeps a selection of alcohol-free options in rotation every month. Right now you can try alcohol-free Erdinger and Tucher Hefeweissen Alcoholfrei.
4. St Luke’s Inn, St Luke’s
As well as a range of zero-alcohol beers, St Luke’s Inn serves Cronin’s Non-Alcoholic Cider and King of Kefir in Lemon and Ginger, Cucumber, and Chilli & Ginger flavours.
5. Electric, South Mall
Heineken Zero and non-alcoholic Stonewell cider are the big sellers at Electric. The ‘Driver’s’ cocktail list features a Virgin Mary (tomato, horseradish, Tabasco, worchester, celery salt and lemon) and a zingy booze-free Mojito, alongside the thoughtfully named Safe Sex on the Beach – a fruity drink made with pineapple, grapefruit, almond syrup, blue curacao, lemon, lime and tonic.
6. The Franciscan Well, North Mall
For a beer hit without the booze, choose from Brooklyn Brewery Hoppy Lager, Baltika Lager, Schneider Weiss Wheat Beer, Stonewell Cider and Thronbridge. Cedar Alcohol Free Gin, Seedlip and Grove 42 are on the shelf too. A kombucha might hit the spot; The Franciscan stock Syncha Tea, Rasberry & Rosehip. Upstairs in Monk cocktail bar you can enjoy a menu full of grown-up non-alcoholic cocktails like the Salted Rosemary Paloma, a blend of grapefruit juice, salted rosemary syrup and sparkling water, or the Matcha Matcha Man – matcha powder, mint, pear juice, sugar syrup and lime juice.
7. Cask, MacCurtain Street
Voted Ireland’s Best Bar two years in a row, Cask is heaven on Earth for cocktail fans, but their creativity extends beyond the booze too. As well as Heineken Zero and Paulaner Non-Alcoholic beers, Seedlip, Cedars and Silk Tree, staff whip up a weekly non-alcoholic drink that’s as exciting as any other option on the menu, with the enticing option to drive yourself home afterwards.
8. Hamlets, Kinsale
No Kinsale day trip is complete without a stop-off in one of the village’s cosy pubs, but if you’re the designated driver, you’ll be looking for a tasty tipple that won’t put you over the limit. Hamlet’s has the largest selection, with Cronin’s and Stonewell Non-Alcoholic Ciders, Erdinger Alcohol-Frei and Heineken Zero and Guinness Pure Brew Open Gate, a hoppy, citrusy craft lager.
9. The River Club, Western Road
Nab a seat on the Harvest Carriage terrace, a Fever Tree partnership inspired by the heritage of the Cork and Muskerry Light Railway, and order yourself a Cedar Station 7: a non-alcoholic cocktail blending Ceder’s Non-Alcoholic Gin, rose water and Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic. You’ll also find Erdinger and Becks Non-Alcoholic behind the bar as well as Seedlip — the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit – which makes a fine alternative to vodka or gin with your favourite mixer.